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“Many Italian dishes are actually vegan or easily veganizable...the only trick here is to never utter any word starting with veg, and people will eat anything.”—Valentina Solfrini, Hortus Cuisine
Here, the blogs you should be reading right now with recipes and tips from their creators.
The Blog: After an expired visa brought her from Brooklyn back to her home in rural Italy, Valentina Solfrini created Hortus Cuisine to help her appreciate traditional (and often vegetarian) Italian food.
Many of your posts show how traditional Italian food is more plant-based than many people think. What are some of your favorite dishes or techniques you’ve learned while producing this blog?
Ever since I started the blog, my goal was to dig up the knowledge of my great-grandparents who lived on the farm and did not have the luxury of taking any shortcuts. I love long recipes that take more than a day to complete. I love the care and attention that must be put into the making process. There are many amazing recipes that require this kind of patience—from canning to cheesemaking, but the skill I am most proud to have mastered is making pasta by the rolling pin method. The sheets of pasta must be rolled out with quick, precise motions of stretch and fold around a long pin, and it requires as much strength as it does grace. Making bread with natural yeast, which takes over two days to fully rise, is also one of my favorite activities.
Have any of your vegan or otherwise nontraditional takes on dishes raised eyebrows, or do people embrace the changes?
Italians are generally very attached to their traditional food, and are still not very open to change, though many young Italians can’t wait to embrace new foods and ingredients, and vegetarian and vegan restaurants and bakeries are popping up encouragingly quickly. Veganism and vegetarianism in Italy are still strongly tied to the idea of a life made entirely of tofu (which most Italians despise, as it is extremely unfamiliar to us), herbs and plain vegetables. Many Italian dishes are actually vegan or easily veganizable...the only trick here is to never utter any word starting with veg, and people will eat anything. I know of a friend who fed seitan ragù to a crowd of anti-vegan people and nobody noticed there wasn’t any meat in it. Which, in my opinion, says a lot about the quality of the meat people are used to buying.
You also love to learn and share about the healing nature of some foods. What have been some of your favorite facts to learn?
The best lessons are the ones you experience on your skin, and it is easy to notice how your body changes after you include or exclude certain foods from your diet. For example, I noticed how my skin stopped flaking after introducing almonds, almond milk and avocado in my diet, and I noticed how much flatter my belly was after removing milk and introducing chia seeds. The best thing to learn, though, was that not everyone reacts to the same foods the same way, which is a great reminder of the fact that we should never judge other people’s dietary choices harshly. A little trial and error is always in order to find out what works best for us.
What food blogs are you loving right now?
My favorite blog has to be Princess Tofu. Phi, the author, is romantic, delicate and attentive to detail. Her recipes are creative and her photos stunningly elegant. Her blog is pure eye candy.
Recipe-wise, my favorite since forever is Green Kitchen Stories. I dare everyone to think of vegetarianism as boring after taking a look at the colorful, incredibly creative yet simple dishes. It’s a close call with 101 Cookbooks though!
Then, I think that people who strongly dislike reading would totally change their mind after taking a look at Culinary Bro-Down. My other favorites include Two Red Bowls, My Blue and White Kitchen, My Name is Yeh, What Should I Eat For Breakfast Today?, A Couple Cooks, I Am a Food Blog, and others. I wish I could include everyone!
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of the forthcoming The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016). She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.